by Jay S. Jacobs
Had things broken a little differently, Amaury Nolasco might still be living in his native Puerto Rico telling patients to turn and cough. After all, that was always the plan. His family was made up almost exclusively of doctors, and when he was growing up in an upscale area of the island (New York Yankee catcher Jorge Posada was a schoolmate) he always just assumed he’d follow in their footsteps.
Instead the 36-year-old is now entering into his third season of playing the vital role of Fernando Sucre in the fan-favorite FOX series Prison Break. Not only that, he played a significant supporting part in the summer blockbuster Transformers. In a Hollywood career that is barely a decade old, Nolasco has proven that talent and a positive attitude can take you far in Hollywood.
Shortly before the third season debut of Prison Break – as well as the DVD release of season two – Nolasco sat down with us to discuss his career and his series.
I read that when you were growing up in Puerto Rico, you had no intention of becoming an actor; in fact you were probably going become a doctor. How did you make the leap to acting?
It was a mistake. (laughs) I had no idea. And it was a good mistake. I was my second year of college in Biology. My mom is a doctor. My dad is a doctor. My brother is a doctor. So, it runs in my family. I was at the beach one day and somebody asked me if I wanted to do a commercial. I just thought it was a Candid Camera show. I figured it was a big joke. Turns out it was true. So, I got the commercial. And that commercial led to another one. To another one. To another one. It eventually led to a TV show. That never aired, it was a pilot. The producer encouraged me to start taking acting lessons, to sort of loosen me up. Okay, why not, you know? It was fun. Girls were looking at you. You were making money and I thought, hey, that’s good. I thought it was a good decision to make. So I did it just for the hell of it while I was finishing my college degree. It was then and there – my first acting class – I fell in love with it. I said, ahhhh, this is what I want to do. So I finished my degree in Biology, because I was already halfway through it. I decided to finish it. I minored in drama. Then I cut my stakes and left for New York. My parents were not happy. But, now they couldn’t be more proud.
Not too long after you moved up to New York to become an actor, you were guesting on some of the biggest shows on TV, like Early Edition, ER and CSI. Soon after that you were in films like 2 Fast 2 Furious. Were you surprised when it took off like that?
There is this thing called “The Secret.” I don’t know if you’ve heard about it. It’s going around. It’s this thing about putting out positive energy. It’s called the secret, but I don’t think it was a secret to me. I’ve always known that if you believe in yourself, you’ll be able to. There was never a doubt in my mind I was going to make it. I just didn’t know when or how. I remember I had a girlfriend at the time. One of those years of struggle, she asked me, “What’s your plan B, if this thing doesn’t work with acting.” I said, “My plan B is to make plan A work.” So, I always knew that this was the only thing that I had to do and was going to do. I just didn’t know when. I was very surprised it took off that fast. My very first audition when I got off the plane – because I studied in New York, but I wasn’t allowed to audition – it was all study, study, study. That’s why I came here after three years in New York. My very first audition was for a pilot for Jennifer Love Hewitt. It was called Time of Your Life. My very first addition I got a callback. Then another callback. Then at the studio. It ended up being me and some other guy – all the way to network. He was the guy who got it. I remember saying, ‘It can not be this easy!’ I just got off the plane. Sure enough, (laughs) it wasn’t that easy. I didn’t get it. But I got my very first part after that within four or five months. I got an Arli$$, which was my first guest star on my first show. From there on it’s been an uphill battle, but a good one. It wasn’t that easy – and I thank God it wasn’t that easy, because it would have not made me appreciate it the way that I appreciate it now.
How did you get involved with Prison Break?
Like a gazillion actors, I was called to do auditions. I got the script. I fell in love with it. I said I’ve got to do this. This is something that I’ve never seen before. There are so many TV shows and pilots that are out there to do and only three get picked up. But I just knew this was something good and different. So I went and auditioned. I had to audition about four or five times before I got the part.
So many of the new serial dramas never last long enough for people to know what is happening. Why do you think Prison Break caught on with people the way it did when other acclaimed shows like The Nine or Vanished barely make it through a few episodes?
You ask a very good question. I have to say… I’m not saying that the writers on the other shows weren’t good… but I have thanks and I’m blessed that I have a group of writers keep this thing going in such a way that pushes the envelope. I think one of the reasons also; people got invested in our characters. You know how this business is – get the ratings the first two or three episodes or you’re done. That was the key. The writers did a nice enough job to get people invested. The whole prison thing was something that was completely key. Everybody loves movies like Shawshank Redemption and The Great Escape. The heroes – well, what would you call them, maybe antiheroes? – they are completely normal people with faults and yet they are our heroes. People fell in love with these guys. Everybody is rooting for these characters to eventually break out of prison. I think a lot has to do with the premise of the show.
The second season of the show sort of spread out a bit away from the original concept – going from the actual breaking out to having them traveling all over the world, trying to stay free. Did this branching out make the show more interesting to you?
One of the things is the show was never intended to last long. So there was never a plan. When we saw the ratings – all the writers saw the ratings, the producers – we knew we would keep going with it. So it was the normal thing. It was funny, because people would say, “okay, this show is going to last four years and they’re still going to be in prison.” It was a slap in the face from our part to everybody, to all those critics – saying, really? Here we go. We’re out of prison. Now watch! Then it was like, “okay, well, what are you going to do next? Okay, now that you did it, what’s next?” What we did was the normal thing to do for a show. There was a show back in the 60s called The Fugitive. Basically, it was the same thing: a similar character. Not only that, instead of one, we had eight running for our lives. It was a very difficult task that I think they did a phenomenal job with. Now, on our junior year – because that was our sophomore year – our junior year we are really pushing the envelope. These guys, their season takes place in a lawless prison…
Yes, I had heard that it would mostly take place around the Sona prison in Panama…
Yes. Sona prison. It goes in the realm of Midnight Express. This prison makes Joliet look like a five-star hotel. So, again, we’re pushing the envelope. You’ll see it at the first… (chuckles) Again, we’re talking about how you grab people – you start with a bang. When I go to a concert, the opening act has got to be good. Otherwise I’m gone. I have to say these guys are – again, I keep repeating myself – but they are pushing the envelope. They’re really making suspenseful shit. (laughs) Got to make sure they earn their money.
At the end of last season, your character was sort of left in a bind. You were in Panama. You had been stabbed and you were bleeding out. Your fiancée had been kidnapped and the police were holding the kidnapper. So without giving away any big secrets, what kind of things can we expect this season?
He’s thrown into the world of all these… what am I trying to say without giving it away? He’s got to eventually find out what’s going to happen with his girl. And he’s also caught up in the predicament of “do I help Michael?” as well. There’s a friendship, but everybody has to take care of his own first. We’ve got to figure out if we’ll see that. We’ll see that develop in the first show. By the way, what’s going to happen with him and Maricruz? What about the baby? Then does he do the right thing to help his boy? His best friend right now. Those are the friendships… I love how they’ve become very good friends over the course of the show. Also, he’s thrown into a whirlwind – will he be able to cope with it? Yeah, it’s so difficult to talk about what’s happening with my character without anything away. Everything is so crucial. I just have to say him and Link are on the outside finding a way to get in. You’ll see the relationship between Sucre and Michael is not the same as with Link. You will see completely a different story here. Completely different, which is amazing to watch. See how these two work together to help Michael.
Do you have any sort of fantasy storyline you’d like to see Sucre involved with?
Eventually I would love to see how its going to turn out – the whole Maricruz thing and the baby. Then again, I don’t want to say much because you’ll see that in the first two episodes. But I would love to see how it’s going to end up, because that’s his baby. That’s what he lives for. I think the only purpose of living is that girl.
Some main characters were killed of or done away with in season two. As an actor, how surprising is it when a friend is written off the show and do you worry about it happening to you?
Yes, always you worry about yourself. But like somebody said, we were supposed to last only thirteen episodes. Here we are in season three. So I am very blessed. The show has given me notoriety in the outside world. I’ve been able to work with Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. And all these actors like Keanu Reaves and Forest Whitaker. I thank the show for everything. Of course I worry every time I open a script (laughs) I get candles and I pray. But in that sense, everybody says everything good has to come to an end. Who knows when it is? In the meantime, you don’t look at that. You’re taking it day by day. In terms of working with other co-stars, like anything, you work with them for a certain time and you enjoy them. You learn through them. There is a relationship going. Then – it was a pleasure and until the next job.
You were also in one of the summer’s big blockbusters – Transformers. How did you get that role? What was it like being part of a blockbuster like that?
First of all, working with Spielberg and Michael Bay is something that every actor [imagines]. I mean, it takes a lifetime to get to the point to work with these guys. In my short professional life I already have it on my résumé. I grew up watching Transformers, so who would have told me when I was twelve years old that you’re going to be in a movie about Transformers. Yeah, right! So for me it definitely was a win-win. It’s something I’m very proud of, being a part of this movie. I mean, we’re talking about a movie that broke a lot of records. It’s one of the biggest movies in the summer blockbuster [season]. It’s a movie that, your kid is going to go, “Oh, dad was in this.” You look back and I remember when I was a kid watching ET or Top Gun or that type of thing. It’s going to stand for a long time because of the special effects as well. It won’t be one of those movies that you’ll forget on the DVD rack. It’ll definitely stand on its own for a long, long time.
There is a certain amount of debate as to whether or not your character survived. He was last shown as injured.
That was so funny, because originally my character dies. I was shot and just died. But it ended up in the cutting room floor, which actually helped me, because my character has taken off. A lot of people, especially Latin American people, loved my character. It was a character that took off. It was very charismatic and in the little time that I was there, I made a footprint. I got a call from writers and producers saying, your character was loved and it seems like he might come back. You know, that’s one of those things that you pat yourself on the back – good one! You took whatever they gave you and you made the best out of that and leave it up to God.
I heard you also have a new movie in the works called Night Watch with Keanu Reeves and Forest Whittaker. What is that like?
Oh, it’s such a thrill. Again, working with Spielberg and Michael Bay was great. It was a blockbuster. It’s a cool movie. But, you take it for what it is – a popcorn movie. You’re not going to get an Academy Award for it. I’m not saying that I’m going to get an Academy Award for this one, but it is definitely something that as an actor I’m very proud of. It’s an amazing script by David Ayer and James Ellroy – the guy who wrote Training Day and the guy who wrote LA Confidential. A great cast – an amazing cast. It’s a low budget movie. I mean was made for less than 25 mil. So, you know that everybody who came to the movie did it for the love of the game. It’s amazing. Chris Evans. Keanu Reeves. Forest Whitaker. Naomie Harris. Myself. Jay Mohr. John Corbett. It’s an amazing cast. This is one of those movies that you feel very, very proud of, because it’s such an actor’s film.
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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 29, 2007.